Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 2 entries for this date: John Irving and Gerald H.F. Gardner
John Irving

John Irving

On this date in 1942, novelist John Irving was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, as John Wallace Blunt Jr. John became John Winslow Irving after his mother remarried when he was six. He earned his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire in 1965 and his M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1967. His books include The World According to Garp (1978), an enormous bestseller, The Cider House Rules (1986) and A Widow for One Year (1999), all of which were turned into movies. (A Widow for One Year was excerpted for the movie "The Door in the Floor"). The Cider House Rules portrayed a sympathetic abortionist during the era when it was illegal and freethinking subject matter. Irving told Mother Jones magazine (May/June 1997): "But we are a country that likes to be punitive. We want to restrict. It is a kind of religious fervor run amok." When he was asked by Mother Jones if he is religious, Irving replied: "You know, if you asked me one day, I might say, 'Well, sometimes I feel a little bit religious.' If you asked me another day, I'd just say flat out, 'No.' " In Brave Souls: Writers and Artists Wrestle with God, Love, Death and the Things that Matter by Douglas Todd, Irving is quoted saying about his views on religion: "Now, if you push me to the wall, I'd say I'm not a believer. But it depends on the day you ask. . . I'm not comfortable calling myself a believer, a Christian. But if somebody says, 'are you an atheist?' I'd back down from that question too."

“[W]hen you legislate personal belief, you're in violation of freedom of religion. The Catholic Church may espouse its opinion on abortion to the members of its congregation. But they are in violation of separation of church and state when they try to proselytize their abortion politics on people who are not Catholics.”

—John Irving interview, Mother Jones, May/June 1997

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Gerald H.F. Gardner

Gerald H.F. Gardner

On this date in 1926, Gerald Henry Frazier Gardner was born in Tullamore, Ireland. He studied mathematics and theoretical physics at Dublin’s Trinity College. He earned a master’s in applied mathematics from Carnegie Institute of Technology (1949) and a doctorate in mathematical physics from Princeton (1953). Gardner worked in applied seismology for several decades, and taught at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Rice University and the University of Houston. Gardner actively pursued equal rights for women in his life. Along with his wife Jo Ann Evansgardner, whom he married in 1950, Gardner was an early member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Organization for Women. Dr. Gardner and the chapter in 1969 challenged sex-based employment ads in the Pittsburgh Press. Employment want ads used to list separate pages of "Male Wanted," "Female Wanted," which barred women from much professional work. Gardner specifically provided statistical analysis of the likelihood of women finding employment in such a structure. This led to landmark women’s rights decision in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance that prohibited sex-based employment advertisements. The result? Want ads were "sexegrated" around the nation, a huge boom for women's employment rights. Gardner contributed statistical analysis in other cases involving gender and race discrimination and considered this work the most important of his life (Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Obituary: Gerald H.F. Gardner / Scientist, teacher, social activist and feminist,” by Don Hopey, July 27, 2009). He and his wife were Life Members who joined FFRF in the late 1970's, and even left a bequest to FFRF. Dr. Gardner, who was known for his kindness, died of leukemia at the age of 83. D. 2009.

Gardner “was an activist atheist, a proselytizing atheist. He thought that not saying you were an atheist hurt the cause of reality.”

—Gardner’s wife, Jo Ann Evansgardner, remembering her husband in his New York Times obituary, “Gerald Gardner, 83, Dies; Bolstered Sex Bias Suit,” by Bruce Weber, July 28, 2009

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

If you would like to be placed on the "Daily Freethought" e-mail list to automatically receive the calendar notice, log in and edit your email settings (My Membership). Or, email  and include your first and last name with your request for verification purposes. This email service is limited to members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or subscribers to Freethought Today. To become an FFRF member, click here.


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